DATE: 2016-12-08


PYONGYANG, North Korea – The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned North Korea’s (DPRK) national airline Air Koryo on December 2nd, 2016. Many organizations involved in developmental, governmental and tourism industries are wondering if these new sanctions will affect their future travel and work to the DPRK.

The simple answer is No.

Paektu Cultural Exchange has been in close contact with Air Koryo, DPRK colleagues, as well as their network of media, academics and other international partners working in the DPRK.

“I was concerned that Americans would no longer be able to travel to the DPRK by plane, but we found out more information from multiple and reliable sources that this was simply not the case” said Michael Spavor, founder of Paektu Cultural Exchange.

air_koryo_logoThe new sanctions will affect some of Air Koryo’s commercial business activities and make transactions of fuel, cargo, and banking more troublesome.  The sanctions would prohibit American individuals and businesses to conduct commercial business with Air Koryo, however, traveling on their aircraft will still be permitted.

In other words, you will be able to travel to North Korea legally through Air Koryo if it is for ordinary travel.  According to an American based tour company:

“… because of exemptions for “travel and transactions ordinarily incident to travel” contained in the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The IEEPA underpins the legal authority for sanctions executive orders like the one expanded upon by OFAC to designate Air Koryo.

The statement also mentioned that “… despite an OFAC Iran Air designation, allowed U.S. persons to accept reservations, issue tickets for travel on Iranian carriers, and advertise air service between the United States and Iran.”

“However, one consequence that may arise would be an increase in the price of airfare in the coming future due to these new increased difficulties for the airline.” stated an American tour company.


This week Paektu Cultural Exchange was given permission, from a high-level government partner, that they would be able to take Americans to and from Pyongyang on the train if necessary, to accommodate any future restrictions. Previously, Americans have not been allowed to take the international train to or from the DPRK.

“Our December New Year’s skiing trip to Pyongyang, Wonsan and Masik Ski Resort and our 2017 programs have not yet be affected by this new round of American sanctions. If there are any changes to the current situation, we will make another announcement” said Spavor.

“We also know that there are new plans early next year to begin operating a charter flight from Dandong, China to Pyongyang. This would give business people and travelers another option when going to or from Pyongyang. I’ve also heard of plans to begin a new ferry ship to and from the DPRK and China which should begin next year.  This will create again more options and offer less expensive travel to the DPRK for mainland Chinese and other foreign visitors” said Spavor.

Air Koryo, founded in 1950, is the state-owned national flag airline of the DPRK and currently has flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Vladivostok.

The Air Koryo fleet is based at Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport (IATA: FNJ). In 2014 the newly built Kalma Airport opened for charter flights and the DPRK has plans to make it an international airport so that it can receive international flights from around Asia and other destinations. Kalma airport will allow better access to the East Coast, which is a quickly developing area for investment and tourism.



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